Thursday 10/28/21

IS terrorist suspect returned to Norway blames husband in trial

The defendant, born in Pakistan but raised in Oslo, was married to three foreign fighters in Syria after joining in 2013 her first husband, Bastian Vasquez, a Chilean-Norwegian jihadist who converted to Islam.

A Woman in Al-Hol Camp, Syria. Photo: Y. Boechat (VOA).

A Woman in Al-Hol Camp, Syria, in 2019. Photo: Y. Boechat (VOA).

A defendant pleaded not guilty to charges of supporting the Islamic State, more than a year after she was repatriated to Norway from Syria, according to news reports on Monday.

The prosecution claim that the defendant, who was married to three foreign fighters in Syria between 2013 and 2019, enabled her husbands to fight for the Islamic State by looking after children and doing housework.

"The mothers were invaluable supporters," prosecutor Geir Evanger told the Oslo district court.

Afterwards, the defendant took the stand and said she had wanted to leave Syria in May 2013, just three months after joining her husband, Bastian Vasquez, a Chilean-Norwegian jihadist who converted to Islam.

He had travelled there earlier to fight for an al-Qaeda affiliate now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

They had fallen in love and one reason she went to Syria was to escape an arranged marriage, the defendant and her lawyer, Nils Christian Nordhus, told the court in comments carried by news agency NTB.

In Syria, she had a change of heart. "I told Bastian that I wanted to go back home, but he said I was not permitted," the defendant told the court.

Locked in the house

She said she was locked in the house, and at times Vazquez refused to talk to her for days. She also said she was sometimes placed with a Syrian family while Vazquez was away.

"I was not allowed to leave the house when he was away," she said.

Vasquez later switched allegiance to the Islamic State. The defendant said she did not know much about the IS and did not have access to the internet.

"I only knew what he told me, but after a while he stopped talking to me about what he did," she added.

The defendant is also suspected of trying to recruit other women to join the Islamic State. If convicted, the 30-year-old risks up to six years in prison.

Evanger told the court that the defendant was radicalised prior to arriving in Syria in 2013, and that the Norwegian police security service PST had intercepted phone calls between her and Vazquez, a known foreign Islamic State fighter who died in 2015.

No more niqab

The woman, who was born in Pakistan but grew up in Oslo, has since her repatriation to Norway stopped wearing the niqab, or full-face veil.

She has had 13 interviews with the PST. Last week, she was released from pre-trial custody.

She was repatriated in January 2020 along with her two young children, one of whom was very ill, from the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. Details of the son's health were sealed.

Her repatriation was strongly criticized by the populist right-wing Progress Party, which left Prime Minister Erna Solberg's centre-right coalition in protest.